a web page by Don Roberson

The 2010 Monterey Audubon birdathon found observers searching from 4 p.m. on 30 April to 4 p.m. on 1 May for as many species as could be located within Monterey County. With high winds in the afternoon but a lovely spring morning on Saturday, it proved to be a day to enjoy our breeding avifauna (Red-tailed Hawk on nest, above).

Birders checked sites from as far away as the oak savanna in Priest Valley (right), to Cholame Valley in the far southeast, to South Coast Ridge Road in the far southwest, to the Moss Landing environs in the north (below; Rita Carratello looks towards the heronry in eucs at Moonglow Dairy). Not to mention many places in between.

There were some good birds at these sites. The big oak tree on North Fork Rd (right) in Priest Valley had a pair of Lewis's Woodpecker, the only ones currently known to be in the county. Found in mid-April by Tim Amaral, and recorded on the birdathon by Steve Rovell, they evoke questions: will they nest this year?[breeding has never been confirmed in MTY]. This photo (below) was taken the day after the birdathon (© D. Roberson).

The Moonglow heronry in the eucalyptus grove was booming. On 1 May there were at least 7 Great Blue Heron nests (above left; this one already had a chick), 16 Great Egret nests, and at least 25 Double-crested Cormorant nests (photos © D. Roberson). There were also waterfowl babies galore (right, Canada Goose gosling). A good selection of our scarce summer 'puddle' ducks were found (e.g., N. Shoveler, N. Pintail, Green-winged & Blue-winged Teal, Am. Wigeon).

But conditions were not right to locate all of our breeding birds which is so critical to the success of a spring birdathon. Last summer's fire destabilized the road to Cone Peak, and it was still closed. That cost us Red-breasted Nuthatch and maybe Mountain Chickadee & Black-chinned Sparrow. There was snow on the ground at Chews Ridge. And while we tried to cover as much of MTY as possible, coverage was lighter this year. In addition to those just mentioned, we missed these breeding birds: N. Harrier, Bald Eagle, C. Moorhen, Costa's Hummingbird, Hermit Thrush, and Blue Grosbeak.

These misses contributed to a comparatively low final total: 232 species for the 24–hour effort.


On the other hand, Grasshopper Sparrow was widespread (left, near Soledad 1 May © Chris Hartzell). The VWS condor team recorded a wild-hatched California Condor during our dates, and these difficult breeders were located:

  • American Bittern at Zmudowski (D. Roberson, Steve Gerow, Nanci Adams)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk near Memorial Park (Chris Tenney)
  • G. Roadrunner in e. MTY & Canyon Wren at Fremont Peak (Tim Amaral & team)
  • Lesser Nighthawk in Cholame Valley (also Long-eared Owl; R.J. Adams & team) & on the San Lorenzo River border with San Benito Co. (Steve Rovell)
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird at Jamesburg on Tassajara Road (Blake Matheson)
  • Dusky Flycatcher on South Coast Ridge Road (Scott & Linda Terrill).
  • Bank Swallow at Fort Ord (David & Jane Styer; this colony was just discovered by them last year)
  • American Dipper on Big Sur coast (Mike Tyner)


We also had late lingering diving ducks, such as Redhead at two sites, and this Gr. White-fronted Goose (right, Blackstone Winery pond in Gonzales 1 May © Chris Hartzell) was lingering from at least January .... and maybe even longer. Not many late winter landbirds were found; the best was probably a White-throated Sparrow still at Bill & Mary Rydell's feeder in Pebble Beach. Migration was rather slow during the birdathon but these were of particular interest:

  • Cattle Egret & two Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Moonglow Dairy (D. Roberson, R. Carratello)
  • Solitary Sandpipers at Moonglow (D. Roberson, R. Carratello) & at Salinas WTP (Brian L. Sullivan)
  • male Calliope Hummingbird on South Coast Ridge Road (Scott & Linda Terrill)

Notable finds during sea-watching from shore included:

  • Black-footed Albatross & Ancient Murrelet from Pt. Pinos (Scott & Linda Terrill)
  • breeding-plumaged Horned Grebe from Monterey (B.J. Weed), Moss Landing (D. Roberson), and 3 in Carmel Bay (Craig Hohenberger, Michael Rieser)
  • Black Scoter & Rhinoceros Auklet off Seaside (Steve Rovell)
  • Pomarine Jaeger sitting on the beach at Salinas R. mouth (Tim Amaral & team)
In addition, a Monterey Bay Whalewatch cetacean-viewing trip 3-6 nmi off Pt. Pinos on 1 May had these great additional species: Laysan Albatross, Leach's Storm-Petrel, and Cassin's Auklet (Mike Johns).

When it was all over, Monterey Audubon and the Wild Bird Center hosted a countdown dinner with prizes, and Whole Foods Market prepared a tasty meal (above & below).

Among those enjoying the evening's festivities were team leader Tim Amaral and photographer Marcos Rangel (above right), and this year's birdathon organizer Steve Rovell (right). More acknowledgements follow at the bottom of this web page.

The funds raised by this year's birdathon for Monterey Audubon Society will be used to fund 4–5 scholarships for students in environmental endeavors.

We hope all of you can help with next year's event.

A list of this year's species follows:

Gr White-fronted Goose
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
White-winged Scoter
Surf Scoter
Black Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Mountain Quail
California Quail
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Laysan Albatross
Black-footed Albatross
Pink-footed Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Leach's Storm-Petrel
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brandt's Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Turkey Vulture
Calif. Condor [wild-fledged young]
White-tailed Kite
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Prairie Falcon
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Snowy Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Wandering Tattler
Spotted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Red Knot
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Red-necked Phalarope
Red Phalarope
Bonaparte's Gull
Heermann's Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Pomarine Jaeger
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Ancient Murrelet
Cassin's Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet
Rock Dove
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Greater Roadrunner

Barn Owl
Western Screech-Owl
Great Horned Owl
Northern Pygmy-Owl
Burrowing Owl
Spotted Owl
Long-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Common Poorwill
Lesser Nighthawk
Vaux's Swift
White-throated Swift
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Lewis's Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood-Pewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Cassin's Kingbird
Western Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
Cassin's Vireo
Hutton's Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub-Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
N. Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Pygmy Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
Bewick's Wren

House Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
American Dipper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Western Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Hermit Warbler
MacGillivray's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Western Tanager
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Sage Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Hooded Oriole
Bullock's Oriole
Purple Finch
House Finch
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch
Lawrence's Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

There are always many to thank for any major birdathon effort. Steve Rovell organized this year's effort. Access to non-public lands was provided by California State Parks, Santa Lucia Conservancy, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, and others. Major sponsors were the Wild Bird Center and Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society. Jill Himonas and her team at the Wild Bird Center, and Bette Mayer from the Audubon board, were invaluable in organizing the countdown. The wonderful countdown dinner was provided by Whole Food Market. The many participants and financial supporters are much appreciated. This year's proceeds go to fund scholarships for students in environmental studies. Jan Scott chaired a grant committee to review the applications, aided by Sheila & Alan Baldridge, Rita Carratello, and Brian Weed.





  page created 3–10 May 2010  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved